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I am becoming increasingly worried for CX especially in call centres

I am old enough to have been involved in the explosion of the late 90’s. I was working at the time with PeopleSupport in Los Angeles – the first provider of eCare. The company was way ahead of its time as we offered live chat, video, email (including AI) etc. Then we implemented and successfully integrated all those touchpoints with Siebel CRM. Later, as’s collapsed, CRM and “eCRM” appeared to be ‘tenacious’.CRM, as a concept is GREAT. So what happened to it? Why did it become a term that instils scepticism and even fear? Some say it was ruined by ‘cowboy’ operators who promised the latest and greatest CRM tools for a fraction of the cost of the more recognisable brand names. For sure, ‘everyone and their Granny’ was offering a CRM solution. The vast majority of those solutions were just fancy ‘databases’ with no appreciable mining, analytics or process automation (such as sales force automation). Businesses, struggling to come to terms with CRM were often blinded by the array of vendors and found it hard to tell the difference between the functional, more expensive option and the dysfunctional, much cheaper option that came with a promise of “we will do EVERYTHING you want”. With all this competition in play, the major vendors were under pressure to sell licences. Their focus was entirely on sales. They often over-promised and often failed to deliver on service. The result was dis-satisfied customers everywhere. The credibility of CRM suffered even though CRM had been proven to drive value for businesses and customers, when correctly implemented and managed.

There are some GREAT CRM vendors out there today. Apart from the associated systems, CRM is a proven strategy/process but a legacy of mistrust remains. That legacy scepticism goes all the way back to the time when people (vendors, consultants, trainers and even executives) who often didn’t understand the purpose of what they were talking about, over-sold and/or failed to deliver. It is that legacy that left me with a fear; I never wanted to be involved with that sort of ‘bubble’ again…..

Well here we are!!! Customer Experience… ‘Everyone and their Granny’ is an expert!

The first problem with CX is that too many people have made up their OWN minds about what CX is. They have never taken the time to really understand the art and science of CX..

We see companies disappointed with the returns they get from ‘Customer Experience Director’ roles. We see companies interviewing for those roles and seeking someone who will drive customer satisfaction and expect that to magically result in increased value. We see all this because they are not informing themselves in advance.

One ‘eye-popping’ moment I had recently was when I met with a partner of one of the large global consulting firms. He heads-up a CX practice. He told me that all of their work is journey mapping with some customer surveying. He explained how they run journey mapping sessions and to be fair, it all sounds like a ‘great day out’. Then I asked him how they interpret the journey map, how they advise customers on what areas to focus on, how they calculate and forecast ROI. His answer? – “Oh, we don’t do any of that. We just draw the journey maps and let the business themselves decide what to do with it”. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. A renowned, global consulting firm who basically make vast sums by running energising workshops and producing pretty journey maps? They don’t assist the business to leverage the journey map and deliver ROI!

Because of my legacy fears – stemming from the days of CRM – I consciously try to avoid over-selling or over-promising. I also take prospects to task if I think what they would like is different from what they need. Some don’t like it. When I asked the CX consultant about this he said that the only way to survive in consulting is to
“give people what they want, whether or not it will deliver results. It’s their responsibility to decide what will and won’t deliver a return. And, right now, Directors want to show nice journey maps because it looks like they are doing something positive in CX”.

CX is NOT about journey mapping. CX is not about increasing CSat or NPS. It is about driving value for the business AND the customer. The journey maps and the metrics (Csat, NPS etc.) are the tools we use to identify how to drive more value. They are not the end result. And the interpretation of those tools is as much about understanding psychology as it is about statistical analysis and creative customer care. CX is a complete package. Just doing the easy bit is not good enough.

And, if businesses are increasingly ill-equipped to identify the CX proposals that will drive measurable value returns then the CX industry, in my opinion is going in the same direction as the CRM industry did in the 2000’s. We cannot ask the ‘fly-by-night’ self-appointed CX experts to be transparent so –

What I am asking is for business leaders – CEO’s, CFO’s, CMO’s, CTO’s etc. and their senior management teams to fully inform themselves about CX – what it is, why it works, how it works, what you should seek by way of results, what you should avoid etc.

There are proven CX methodologies. They are not the same as CSat, customer centricity, or customer service methodologies. You need to understand what they are before you buy CX or recruit for CX – for the sake of your business.

And that leads me into call centres. If you wanted more proof of the problem with customer experience you need look no further than call centre recruitment campaigns. Look at the recruitment websites and see how many call centres are looking for “customer experience consultants”. Then look at the KPI’s for those consultants – talk time, handle time, maybe sales, attendance, adherence, aux-time etc.. In some cases a CSat metric or NPS score will be thrown in and there is usually a quality score (but that is usually based on the company’s own views on quality as opposed to a CX analysis). How can you recruit a “customer experience consultant” if there is no experiential management process in your call centre? Are these call centres or contact centres (if they are multi/omni channel) just leveraging a buzz-word to make the job seem more attractive OR are they using terminology that they don’t understand?

Note also that a good, effective and efficient customer experience is NOT synonymous with good customer service or even great customer satisfaction. A call centre might be delivering good service but that does not mean it is an effective experience. The concept of an experience goes far beyond the concept of service and the two don’t always correlate.
Another trend I have noticed is that providers of customer contact technologies – telephone systems, Email Response Management, Interactive Voice Response etc. are claiming that they provide ‘customer experience solutions’. They are NOT customer experience solutions. They are customer contact solutions. There is, I should say, one vendor of note who do actually provide customer experience, CX tools within their contact solutions but they are the exception. The vast majority are simply putting a CX badge on “other stuff”. There are also some specialist vendors who provide dedicated CX tools but they are dedicated CX analytical and management tools. They are not contact technologies.
So some consultants are playing with the terminology to sell exaggerated services, some call centres are using the terminology for ulterior purposes, some system vendors are using the buzz word to make sales (even when their system has no CX methodologies built into it) and some executives are using the terminology to make it seem like they are being proactive??????? Have we seen that before???? …. I have!!! CRM?

CX is a suite of methodologies that include psychological principles (such as cognitive bias and hedonics), data mining and statistical analysis along with concepts of customer service, brand modelling, competitive differentiation and financial modelling. I plead with businesses to do more to educate themselves about what CX truly is. You don’t have to be experts but you have to know enough to identify when you are being mislead. If businesses don’t take more time to understand what they are buying then CX will become a bad word and this time it won’t be the vendors or the consultants who will take the blame it will be the business leaders who failed to inform themselves more about what they were buying and why.

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